ASPCA Issues Statement on NYC Carriage Horses

July 12, 2007

NEW YORK, July 12, 2007—


Following is the ASPCA’s official position on carriage horses: the ASPCA is not opposed to the use of horses and other equines in pulling carts and carriages for hire, provided that all of the animals' physiological and behavioral needs are fully met; housing and stable conditions are humane; and their working hours and conditions are carefully regulated as to temperature, humidity, proximity to traffic, rest periods, etc. Working equines should receive regular veterinary and farrier care and be provided a humane retirement when no longer able to work.

Bearing that in mind, the ASPCA does not believe that the present state of the New York City carriage horse industry is optimal. However, as long as this industry is permitted to operate in New York City, the ASPCA feels that, at the very least, carriage horses and their stables should be limited to operating in Central Park alone. This would keep them safe from motorized traffic and afford them shaded grounds for turn out, where they are unencumbered by tack and free to exercise.

The ASPCA's Government Affairs and Public Policy Department has worked for more than 20 years to pass legislation that would strengthen the law governing the carriage horse trade, including restricting the horses to Central Park. Unfortunately, due to industry interests and support by government officials, including the NYC City Council, the ASPCA has not been successful in passing legislation, despite our best efforts.

The ASPCA continues to support and work with Councilman Tony Avella on his bill (Intro. 44) to restrict carriage horses to Central Park. To date, this bill does not have the support of City Council leadership or Mayor Bloomberg and is not slated to move forward in the future. The ASPCA will continue to work to support and pass legislation to improve conditions for the horses and to vigorously enforce existing laws and regulations. We urge the public to contact their councilperson, Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to support Councilman Avella’s bill.


What is the ASPCA’s role in monitoring carriage horses?
There are actually three agencies involved in monitoring carriage horses in New York City, which does not make for the most optimum system. Two of these are municipal agencies: the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, which regulates the business dealings of the carriage horse industry; and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which licenses the drivers and is mandated to enforce the provisions regarding the humane treatment/care of the horses.

While under no obligation to do so, the ASPCA, a non-profit organization, stepped up to the plate to oversee the treatment of the horses themselves, since no other agency seemed willing to do so—and the humane treatment of animals is a core focus for the organization. Toward that end, the ASPCA has assigned one of its 18 Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) agents (who enforce NYC’s animal cruelty laws for a population of 8 million) to monitor the horses in Central Park exclusively.

Does the ASPCA monitor the horses in Central Park 24/7? If not, why not?
The ASPCA HLE officer assigned to Central Park is not present 24/7, since that would be humanly impossible for one person to do. As a non-profit organization, the ASPCA is not like a 9-1-1 system; it has no live operator after 6 p.m. and no officers on duty after midnight. As a result, we direct public inquiries that come in after these times to the NYPD. If police need to reach the ASPCA after hours, they have specific after-hours contact information for specific ASPCA staff, who are best qualified to deal with such situations.

Why doesn’t NYC Animal Care and Control handle the treatment of the carriage horses?
New York City has the lowest-funded animal control program in the United States, which is why there are some gaps in its service. For example, in a 2004 Animal Care and Control Funding Study conducted by the ASPCA’s National Programs Office, per capita spending in New York for animal care and control was $1.05, compared to $1.42 in Chicago, $1.51 in Houston, $2.19 in Cleveland, $3.59 in San Francisco, $3.98 in Los Angeles, and $4.05 in San Diego County.

How does the ASPCA issue summonses for carriage horse violations?
Short of getting a stronger law passed, the ASPCA monitors carriage horse activities and has issued summonses in the past for running red lights, “overloading” and various other violations. However, the "violation" category requires that our HLE officers witness the infraction in order to take action.

What goes into monitoring treatment of the carriage horses?
The ASPCA’s primary concerns are to ensure the health and well-being of horses and to prevent them from being treated inhumanely. Our assigned agent performs numerous hack-line and stable inspections every week. When the assigned agent is on his regular days off, other officers are assigned to monitor the carriage horses periodically throughout the day.

What about recent incidents? The weather in New York has been extremely hot, and there was an incident last week involving a horse that was involved in a vehicle accident.
Our agents inspected the hack-line every day last week; this included inspecting the line and examining individual horses, tack and paperwork as needed. In periods of extreme heat (90 degrees or more) ASPCA agents suspend carriage horse operations, as they did on July 3, 4, 8 and 11, and will continue to do as necessary. (Similarly, in very cold weather, we also suspend activity if temperatures go below 18 degrees).

On July 4, one carriage horse was in distress due to heat. ASPCA agents provided our horse trailer to transport the horse back to the stable and gave the driver notice that a veterinary exam was required. In another incident that same week, a carriage horse was involved in a vehicle accident. The horse, which sustained gashes on its right rear leg, was treated by an equine veterinarian. The horse was taken out of service. Since the ASPCA was not informed about the accident until much later, we were unable to offer our horse trailer to assist in returning the horse to the stable. The ASPCA is still investigating this incident. We also received three other separate complaints that were investigated but enforcement was not deemed necessary.

Can anyone else besides the ASPCA issue summonses?
NYPD officers are mandated to enforce all laws, including those associated with the carriage horses. Unfortunately, they often choose not to, and refer complainants to the ASPCA. In addition to the NYPD, the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Parks Department can issue summonses.

Although the ASPCA is not mandated to enforce the carriage horse laws, please be assured that legitimate complaints called in by the public are investigated by the ASPCA. The fact that you may not always see us out there has more to do with the large geographical area that we need to cover related to the carriage horses; from where the horses are housed, to the expanse of Central Park. Additionally, the ASPCA receives upwards of 50,000 calls each year, many of which are related to witnessing abuse of other animals in the five boroughs, and these are managed presently by just 18 agents, with additional support staff.

What should I do if I see a carriage horse in distress or suspect the driver is committing a violation?
Please notify the ASPCA if you observe violations occurring with animals by calling (212) 876-7700 ext. 4450. Both the horse and the carriage have identification numbers, either or both of which will help us in investigating the complaint. In addition, please notify the Mayor's Office at (212) NEW-YORK or the City Council Speaker at (212) 788-7207 or (212) 564-7757 about your concerns.

You can also notify 311, which logs this information for the Mayor’s Office and will notify the ASPCA if it is an animal-related crime/violation.